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Gay artist Tom of Finland to be celebrated on Finnish postage stamps

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The Finnish Postal Service, Itella Posti Oy, will publish a ground-breaking set of stamps in September to honor male drawings by Tom of Finland. The deceased Finnish artist is notable for his homoerotic fetish art which reflected his take on late twentieth century gay culture.

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Touko Laaksonen, aka Tom of Finland, May 8, 1920 –November 7, 1991, is one of the most popular gay artists in this progressive Baltic country. He created more than 3500 stylized illustrations mostly featuring uniformed sailors, policemen, firemen, bikers and soldiers sporting gigantic sex organs and with tight or partially removed clothing.

A spokesperson for Itella, the Finnish Postal Service, explained “His emphatically masculine homoerotic drawings have attained iconic status in their genre and had an influence on pop culture and fashion. In his works, Tom of Finland utilized the self-irony and humor typical of subcultures.”

Regarding the selected Tom of Finland stamp art, graphic artist Timo Berry, who helped to select the specific illustrations for the three stamps, said “The sheet portrays a sensual life force and being proud of oneself. There is never too much of that in this northern country.” The miniature sheet contains 1st –class, self-adhesive stamps.

The Tom of Finland illustrations of hyper-masculine figures have become highly prized in gay culture around the world. These unique first-class stamps feature images typical of Tom of Finland drawings: an exaggeratedly wide-framed uniformed man with a provocative stare and a cigarette dangling from his mouth, as well as the muscled curves of an appealing male bubble-butt.

To coincide with the stamp sheet’s release, Finland’s Postal Museum will also debut an exhibition on Touko Laakson entitled “Sealed with a Secret: Correspondence of Tom of Finland.” The show, which runs from September 6 of this year through March 29, 2015 at the Museum Centre Vapriikki, in the Finnish city of Tampere, will feature letters and exchanges from the late artist throughout his long and successful career. Tampere, in the south of the country, is about an hour and a half by train from Helsinki, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. (Peter the Great used the Finnish capitol as a model for St. Petersburg).

If you go to gay-friendly Helsinki, you will discover that it is most famous for its industrial and fashion designs, architecture and high technology, which is at the heart of the country’s successful free-market economy. The Finnish government offers tuition-free higher education for qualified students, creating a highly literate and prosperous society.

For LGBT visitors the city is especially welcoming because of its openly accessible and easily approachable local residents, most of whom speak fluent English. Since 2009 the Gay-friendly Helsinki network has brought together local companies that are dedicated to providing high quality services for LGBT visitors. Lots of information about this beautiful capitol city can be found by searching Gay Friendly Helsinki on Facebook or go to www.visithelsinki.fi/en/come/welcome-helsinki/gay-friendly-helsinki‎.

In 2013, Trip Advisor awarded its top accommodation rank to Helsinki’s gay-welcoming Hotel Haven, the first member of the ‘Small Luxury Hotels of the World’ in Finland. The hotel is designed to provide warmth, comfort and luxurious, high-quality services and amenities for the discerning guest in its 77 well-appointed boutique rooms. It’s in the attractive setting of Helsinki’s bustling Market Square. The hotel and its “Bar Haven” lounge is a great starting point for a relaxing drink before exploring other bars and clubs for the evening.

For first-timers to Helsinki, visit the bustling Café Cavalier - an elegant gay bar and café in the middle of Helsinki near the Kamppi Metro station. It’s a place to enjoy a safe atmosphere with good live music, comedy and drag performances, cold drinks and delicious tapas and pastries, and it’s a great place to chat up the locals to discover other LGBT favorite spots. Who knows….you might even meet someone who resembles a ‘Tom of Finland’ drawing to show you around beautiful and truly welcoming Helsinki. Raise your glass, smile and say “Cheers” in Finnish - “Salud tai kippis!”

Written by Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin’

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